Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday didn’t focus too much on energy, and most of the part devoted to energy focused on the President’s belief that renewable energy will become competitive with enough money poured into it. However, he did mention America’s massive run-up in fossil fuel production, touting it as part of his “all of the above energy plan” which some helpful folks have decided to put into context:
Claim 1. “We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.”
The vast majority of increased oil and gas production has come from drilling on private lands, over which — thankfully — the Obama administration has no control. Where the administration does have control, federal lands and offshore, it has denied, delayed or slow-walked countless drilling requests.
According to the Institute for Energy Research (IER), during the Clinton years the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) granted an annual average of 3,764 oil and gas leases. The number dropped to 2,879 under President George W. Bush and 1,856 under Obama — about half of the average annual leases granted under the Clinton administration.
As Resourceful Earth has noted many times in the past, the increases in oil production are not due to the policies of the Obama Administration. If anything, Obama’s policies have slowed the growth in oil production:
Claim 2. “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”
Almost immediately upon taking office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar began withdrawing tracts of public land that had already been approved for oil and gas leasing. Most of these tracts had undergone a thorough, seven-year-long environmental review.
After the Deep Horizon oil spill, Salazar put a six-month delay on an offshore drilling program. Frustrated with the administration’s stonewalling, the IER released a statement in December 2009 that included the following stats:
“To date, the Obama Administration has offered 2,888,354 onshore acres for lease, of which 1,028,299 have actually been leased. The Administration also rescinded or deferred 77,055 acres that were issued for lease in Utah in 2008. Accounting for this subtraction, fewer onshore acres were leased in 2009 than any other year on record.” (Emphasis in original)
In March 2010 the Obama administration announced that it would delay an offshore drilling plan and only make available a fraction of the offshore land that had been previously agreed upon. But a federal judge struck down the moratorium. So Salazar issued another, newly worded moratorium — in essence, defying a federal judge. The administration eventually lifted the moratorium in October of 2010, but drilling applicants then began to notice that permits were being slow-walked through the approval process. By December, the offshore ban was largely reinstated, so that in February 2011 a federal judge found the Department of Interior in contempt of court for its foot-dragging.
To reference a tired and abused phrase, “You didn’t drill that, Mr. President.”